In most educational systems, the goal is to impart knowledge and for students to absorb it. Usually this means a teacher or instructor transmitting the information through lectures to classes of 25 or more students.
But we know that within days and weeks, most of this information is forgotten. Some can be recaptured through notes, of course, but for the most part it was committed to short term memory and not retained.
The difference of education via Harkness is immediately evident. Rather than large classes, Harkness students gather around a conference table in groups of 14. In other words, every student has a "front row seat."
Students first use independent study and research to gain their information and then share their insights in peer-to-peer discussions to enhance it. This pedagogy obliges students to build their own knowledge base and then share it. They can not simply be passive recipients of information.
This way of learning changes lives. It is transformative.
"Harkness completely changed my son..."
THE NEW SYSTEM
❖ Independent study and research.
❖ Collaborative discussions in small classes around the conference table to gain insights on the material studied.
❖ Projects, presentations and papers: Formal expression of what they have learned.
❖ Testing to assure the material has been retained.
WHY IT WORKS
4-STEP LEARNING PROCESS
You can witness the development begin with their first class discussion. Students are not just eager to supply some fundamental insight they have gleaned from their study, but also apply critical thinking to others’ comments.
Then from critical thinking something new emerges –- wisdom. Wisdom is an ability to use knowledge acquired and apply it in a given circumstance. What blooms from the class discussions, is a fuller understanding of people, things, events, situations and history. And from that knowledge develops the ability as well as the willingness to use all the intellectual capabilities (perception, judgment, and intuition) to achieve an optimal course of action.
Discernments from subjects being discussed are often startling and occasionally result in applause when unique ideas are uncovered.
What is the role of the teacher in these discussions? Basically as the facilitator; the students are the drivers of the learning process. Critical thinking and presentation skills are practiced and honed. Collaborative skills and team play are developed.
Most of all, respect for differing ideas and thoughtful, objective analysis become de facto character traits in students, as topics ranging from classical literature to even math become fodder for intellectual scrutiny.
Harkness students not only learn deeper, they get a much better grasp of why they are learning what they are learning. This results in a growing interest to investigate and learn all kinds of things and a willingness to apply that knowledge to action.
They approach new material with enhanced understanding and in a manner that they feel works best for them. In short, they apply knowledge to decide what actions should be taken in order to deliver successful outcomes.
This is exciting. This is wisdom.